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  1. 1. Equality Bill: Public Sector Duty Specific Duties Scottish Government Equalities Unit 29 September 2009 15th January 2010 Available in other formats on request. Sense Scotland, 43 Middlesex Street, Glasgow G41 1EE Tel: +44 (0) 141 429 0294 Fax: +44 (0) 141 429 0295 Text: +44 (0) 141 418 7170 Registered as a company limited by guarantee in Scotland 147570 Registered Scottish Charity Number SC022097
  2. 2. Equality Bill: Public Sector Duty Specific Duties 29 September 2009 Response from Sense Scotland 15 January 2010 Introduction Sense Scotland is a leader in the field of communication and innovative support services for people who are marginalised because of challenging behaviour, health care issues and the complexity of their support needs. The organisation offers a range of services for children, young people and adults whose complex support needs are caused by deafblindness or sensory impairment, physical, learning or communication difficulties. Our services are designed to provide continuity across age groups and we work closely with families and colleagues from health, education, social work and housing. This breadth and depth of approach to service delivery helps us take a wider perspective on the direction and implementation of new policies. To inform our response we have taken part in one of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) stakeholder events (Glasgow) as well as a round table discussion at Scottish Government. Comments on the General Duty We appreciate that this consultation response is not the place to raise concerns about the General Duty which is addressed in the main Single Equality Bill. Nonetheless we want to mention three broad concerns we have with the Bill. In doing so we recognise Scottish Government’s intention to raise the status of Public Sector Specific Duties in Scotland, partly to compensate for what they too perceive as shortfalls in the General Duty. The three areas of concern we have with the Bill and for which the PSSD can compensate are: • The use of “due regard” with reference to achieving equality. We support the EHRC position that more than ‘due regard’ is needed if we are to achieve equality. ‘Due regard’ can result in no action and no change in outcomes for people affected by inequality. We support EHRC proposals on the need for public authorities to “take all steps that they reasonably consider appropriate or necessary” to achieve equality. • Maintenance of the asymmetric nature of duties to disabled people. Currently a disabled person can receive more favourable treatment in order to meet their needs. This is not the same as having to take account of a disabled person’s needs even if this involves more favourable treatment. We support the position taken by the twelve organisations forming the Disability Charities Consortium (DCC) in their response to the bill. • Reasonable adjustment duty in particular its anticipatory provisions. Again we support the DCC position that the Westminster Government intend to retain the anticipatory duties. Sense Scotland Page 2 of 18 15 January 2010
  3. 3. Equality Bill: Public Sector Duty Specific Duties 29 September 2009 Response from Sense Scotland 15 January 2010 Our response to the specific duties is we believe consistent with Scottish Government’s stated intentions of introducing ways to ensure continued improvements in equality of all people in Scotland through its framing of Public Sector Specific Duties. Comments on the Specific Duty Implementation of specific duties is essential to delivering the wider general public sector duty on equality. It is important then that specific duties lead to improvements not just on process but on outcomes and on autonomy – showing improvements with groups who are least able to make their views known. Scottish Government should make it clear what duties it expects public authorities to fulfil. Involvement and engagement with stakeholders should be made transparent at all stages. Question 1: Do you think that it would be helpful to have in place specific duties on public authorities to assist in the delivery of the general Equality Duty? Yes. We believe that specific duties will be an important element in ensuring that Equality Bill requirements are addressed. Duties should be clear, specific and measurable. Coverage Question 2: Do you think the criteria set out at paragraph 4.4 are the right criteria for considering whether a public authority should be subject to the new specific duties? Yes. As regards an organisation having ‘significant effect on the lives of people who are protected’ it would be helpful to include in guidance what is meant by the term ‘significant’. The experience of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 is instructive. A recent amendment to the Act was introduced because the 2004 Act did not define ‘significant’. Left undefined, a public body’s reluctance, intransigence, or simple omission, may be construed as not having a significant effect on people’s lives. That lack of significant effect would then justify not being subject to specific duties. Services commissioned by public authorities should also be included under the duty. (This would also to apply to so-called Sense Scotland Page 3 of 18 15 January 2010
  4. 4. Equality Bill: Public Sector Duty Specific Duties 29 September 2009 Response from Sense Scotland 15 January 2010 ‘arms-length organisations.) A public body may, increasingly, commission services and in doing so, would have a significant effect. An example here is that of the provision of social housing as a public function. As regards the fourth group covered (bullet 4) we are unclear how ‘sufficient size’ should be interpreted. Question 3: Do you think the new specific duties should be imposed on all Scottish public authorities which are subject to the general duty, provided it is reasonable and practical for them to fulfil the requirements? If not, why do you think they should not be imposed? Yes. Electoral cycle Question 4: Is it appropriate to link the new public sector equality duty specific duties to either the Scottish or local government electoral cycle? (For example, linking the setting, reviewing and reporting on equality objectives to electoral cycles) No. We do see some possible advantages in linking the public sector duty and specific duties to the electoral cycle. Ministers having to report on progress and thereby seeking information from public bodies would help to raise the profile of equality with the electorate. However, we believe that delivery on specific duties would be strengthened if it were seen as part of a rolling programme of commitments. One option to explore is to include setting, reviewing and reporting on duties within Single Outcome Agreement planning frameworks. Although SOAs do not apply to all public authorities, being restricted to the 32 local authorities and subject to political change, integrating equality planning within planning cycles rather than electoral cycles would embed specific duties. It would: • Encourage ‘mainstreaming’ – in 2008 most SOAs made no explicit reference to equality (SPICe briefing 18 Sept 2008). Since then little has improved. • Provide a sustained commitment, rather than run the risk of end loading duties to report on commitments until the electoral cycle. • Help streamline processes and outcomes – again referring to 2008 figures 1,215 SOA outcomes were established, an average of 38 outcomes per SOA; and a total of 3,599 indicators. If equality planning and reporting is not undertaken within the same framework there will be a huge increase in reporting requirements. More important it is likely that equality would be seen to work against main priorities set out in SOA. Including equality Sense Scotland Page 4 of 18 15 January 2010
  5. 5. Equality Bill: Public Sector Duty Specific Duties 29 September 2009 Response from Sense Scotland 15 January 2010 planning and reporting within processes is an efficient and effective use of resources. • However, we recognise that the SOA framework does not reflect the totality of public body engagement e.g. non-departmental public bodies (quangos). We see no advantage in bringing their planning within the electoral cycle. • Reporting on single equality duties through SOA also places involvement and consultation at the heart of planning. Current SOA planning and reporting is mainly a departmental-led process with little public engagement. • Linking to SOA would require senior level ‘buy-in’ to undertakings on equalities. Without that equality improvements could be left behind. We recognise that taking the SOA Concordat route leaves a significant matter unresolved. As SOAs apply only to local government, and equality priorities apply to the whole public sector in Scotland, SOA reporting would leave many areas untouched. At the same time these public authorities do have to report to Scottish Government on a regular and annual basis. We propose that similar reporting mechanisms are required of these bodies and that these are required to be made available to the public. The same criteria that apply to local government bodies should apply to other public bodies, with consideration given to flexible responses according to size and purpose. Many examples could be given where, had this approach already been in place within non-governmental bodies, improved measures for existing equality priority groups would already be in place. We do see one area on which it could it be helpful to report in line with the electoral cycle: that of human rights. Consideration could be given to adopting a more integrated approach, reporting on delivery of equalities through the SOA cycle; and Human Rights reported in the electoral cycle. We discuss this in more detail elsewhere in our response. For now, we draw attention to the merits of reporting on Human Rights aspects as part of the electoral cycle. Delivering on mainstreaming Question 5: Should public authorities be encouraged to mainstream equality, with reference to all the proposed protected characteristics (see paragraph 2.8), across their services and functions? Yes. In our response to Question 24 we outline why limiting equality measures only to “key policies” would be inappropriate. It is vital that equality is seen as inclusive and for that to happen it is the responsibility of everyone to deliver improvements against equality Sense Scotland Page 5 of 18 15 January 2010
  6. 6. Equality Bill: Public Sector Duty Specific Duties 29 September 2009 Response from Sense Scotland 15 January 2010 objectives and planning. Question 6: How might public authorities best demonstrate they are mainstreaming equality in relation to all the proposed protected characteristics? For example, through reporting on progress. In fulfilling their duties on involvement and consultation, procurement, not limiting provisions to ‘key policies’, as well as the other areas mentioned in our response, public authorities would go a long way to building equality measures into the fabric of their activities. In addition, it would be helpful if public authorities were encouraged to: • set up user groups reflecting the characteristics of equality groups • seek out, routinely, ‘customer feedback’ from users of its services, with particular regard paid to equality characteristics • adopt a corporate style, for example in all correspondence, that takes account of equality characteristics and that this translates into efforts to ascertain customer feedback. Soft measures such as the ones outlined are just as important, if not more so, than dense reports that are overlaid with jargon and statistics to demonstrate esoteric concepts. If people’s experiences of improvement in services do not change no amount of data collection and report writing will fix that. Reporting on progress can then include people’s experiences of improvement. At the same time it will be important that the three improvement areas for equality – in outcomes, in processes experience, and in relative power – feature when reporting on progress. Improvements in all three areas are needed for experiences of access to public authority services to improve across the board. Setting equality objectives Question 7: With reference to the relevant evidence and to wider public authority general Equality Duty obligations, do you think that setting equality objectives would help public authorities to focus their response to the general duty? Should equality objective setting cover all protected characteristics, or not? We appreciate that the overly prescriptive approach currently operated could result in things being counted for the sake of it but the risk under the new approach is that duties are not robust enough to promote equality and eliminate discrimination. In the absence of equality objectives being set we are not convinced that progress would be made. Evidence from the Sense Scotland Page 6 of 18 15 January 2010
  7. 7. Equality Bill: Public Sector Duty Specific Duties 29 September 2009 Response from Sense Scotland 15 January 2010 existing disability and gender duties would indicate that objective setting has resulted in less discrimination. For example under Scotland’s Disability Strategies legislation in education, responsible bodies have to report every three years on what they have done and what they will do in the next cycle. Clear progress has been made (though much remains to be done). Not only does objective setting lead to measurable progress it also leads to progress on the measures that can be used to mark improvement. Again referring to the Disability Strategies legislation, a joint report by HMI Education and Disability Rights Commission pointed to improvement in the area of physical access but that much less had been done in the area of improved access to communication and information, and in access to the curriculum. These led directly to improvements in objective setting in these two areas. Setting equality objectives assumes that evidence is already available against which to set these objectives. At present public authorities have limited evidence and, for the newer protected characteristics, there will be even less evidence. Question 8: Do you think equality objective setting should be linked to the corporate and/or business planning mechanisms of public authorities? Yes. While we agree with this objective we would not be satisfied if the corporate and/or business planning mechanisms stayed the same. Equality objectives should not be made to fit into planning mechanisms that are already in place – buy-in at senior level would mean that the planning mechanisms in place would require review. Increased involvement and improved consultation will help to keep the focus of services on those who use them and reduce the current emphasis on process and turn to outcome, process and autonomy. Question 9: How do you think public authority equality objectives should be publicised? Our response to Question 3 suggests a framework operating within SOA planning, and an equivalent for those organisations not included in SOA planning cycles. As part of that planning, public authorities should routinely publicise equality objectives and what users of their services should expect. This could be done in a number of ways e.g. selecting one or more Sense Scotland Page 7 of 18 15 January 2010
  8. 8. Equality Bill: Public Sector Duty Specific Duties 29 September 2009 Response from Sense Scotland 15 January 2010 of the ten areas outlined in EHRC Equality Measurement Framework in which people could reasonably expect to see progress. Tying outcomes, processes and empowerment (choice and control) to SOA planning would further embed equality improvements into authorities’ specific duties. Question 10: Do you think that public authorities should be required to review their objectives every 4 years in order to fit with the electoral cycles of Scottish or local government? If you disagree, what time-period do you suggest instead? No. As noted above we would prefer that the time cycle was driven by SOA planning in order to make more efficient use of public resources. Reporting on progress Question 11: Do you think public authorities should be required to report on progress? Yes. If they do not report on progress it will be difficult to ascertain if any improvement has taken place. Underlying this question is an important theme of striving to make best use of limited public resources. Reporting should not be at the expense of action and should avoid a tickbox culture developing for equality. Question 12: How frequently should public authorities be required to report on progress? See above. Question 13: Should reporting on progress be linked to existing processes such as business planning? See our responses to questions 1-11. Question 14: Do you think the Scottish Government should prescribe in legislation how Scottish public authorities should report? Legislation should not prescribe reporting in any detail. Legislation should set down the appropriate reporting cycle e.g. SOA business cycle and electoral cycle for Human Rights reporting); the principles for reporting i.e. on Process, Outcomes and Autonomy. Clear, strong guidance could cover these areas while making it clear that public authorities had flexibility in what actions they took to improve equality. Sense Scotland Page 8 of 18 15 January 2010
  9. 9. Equality Bill: Public Sector Duty Specific Duties 29 September 2009 Response from Sense Scotland 15 January 2010 More important than presenting the report is what actions are taken to improve matters over the business cycle. Employment reporting We are concerned that the questions on employment reporting concentrate on having to report, but do not consider what actions they propose to take to address their findings. Question 15: The current gender specific duties require public authorities, with 150 or more employees, to publish an equal pay statement and report on that statement. Do you think this requirement should continue in the new specific duties? We are not clear why the number of 150 employees has been chosen as a cut-off point for publishing and reporting. If public bodies choose to commission services then their responsibilities may remain the same but employee numbers reduce. They may then not have to report on equality measures to the same extent. A second reason for questioning the minimum number is that there appears to be no evidence base given for this choice. We can appreciate that 150 may appear to be too few to report on various equality categories. However, it would be a straightforward matter to aggregate national data that would reveal trends across Scotland. We therefore recommend that the exclusion limit is reduced substantially, for example to 30 employees. Question 16: Do you think that there would be value in public authorities with 150 or more employees reporting on their gender pay gap? See above comment on minimum numbers. Whichever number is agreed public authorities should report on gender pay gap. In keeping with our introductory comments on employment reporting, reporting needs to go beyond gender pay gap and provide information on what actions are planned. Question 17: If the gender pay gap is to be reported on, what method do you think should be used to calculate the gender pay gap? If a statistic is to be used it should take account of the fact that most very high earners are male while most low paid workers are female. We are not convinced that presenting a figure on gender pay gap is that helpful. More important is that the public authority identifies the matter and proposes action it will take. Sense Scotland Page 9 of 18 15 January 2010
  10. 10. Equality Bill: Public Sector Duty Specific Duties 29 September 2009 Response from Sense Scotland 15 January 2010 Question 18: Do you think public authorities with 150 or more employees should be required to provide information on the concentration of women and men in particular grades and in particular occupations (occupational segregation)? Yes, providing that action is linked to reporting. Question 19: Do you think it would help public authorities to monitor progress on equality and be more transparent if they were required to publish their ethnic minority employment rate and their disability employment rate? Yes, providing that action is linked to reporting. Question 20: Should public authorities be asked to outline how they intend to gather information on employment rates for the other characteristics protected under the new Equality Duty? Yes, providing that action is linked to reporting. Question 21: How frequently should public authorities be required to publish information on the gender pay gap, their ethnic minority employment rate and their disability employment rate? A 3-year cycle would allow the focus not to be just on reporting but on what authorities will do with that information, that is what impact it will have on the way they do business. Question 22: Should reporting on employment information be linked to other aspects of reporting on progress on equality, such as reporting on equality objectives? Yes. Demonstrating impact on policies and services Question 23: Do you think public authorities should be required to demonstrate how they have considered the impact of equality on their policies and services? Yes. It is important that Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) are integrated with corporate planning in public agencies. If they are not then decisions will be seen as not part of the ‘real’ work done by agencies. Equality duties reflect a commitment to improving services and somehow that perception needs to be reinstated and owned by staff in public agencies. Too many examples are available where duties are seen as running counter to business. EIAs should not be stand-alone bureaucratic processes but built into people’s work so that it is easy to demonstrate a continuous cycle of improvement. Sense Scotland Page 10 of 18 15 January 2010
  11. 11. Equality Bill: Public Sector Duty Specific Duties 29 September 2009 Response from Sense Scotland 15 January 2010 Question 24: Do you think a public authority should only be required to demonstrate equality impact assessment of key services and policies? No. If only key services and policies had to demonstrate equality impact assessments the result would be a regression in equality rather than improvement. Targeting specific services and policies is the very opposite of mainstreaming equality objectives into the fabric of delivering a service. Any service described as ‘key’ within a major organisation will work within a larger whole. For example, in schools disabled pupils need to access information using computers just as other pupils do. Often they meet barriers imposed by factors that are beyond the responsibility of the school and indeed beyond the education department. In that case education might be a key service but depend on factors outwith education control to deliver on equality through improved accessibility. A decision about procurement taken by a local authority’s corporate IT department does not, in our experience, factor into the needs of all users in schools. Far better to focus on a ‘key outcome’ associated with equality duties and then to consider which parts of the system are involved in delivering on that outcome. At that point actions needed to address these parts would come into the equation. The model required is one analogous to ‘systems engineering’ rather than a priori decisions about what constitutes a key service or policy. NB We mention equality of ‘outcomes’ as an example, we would also include equality of process and of autonomy here. (We deal with this elsewhere in our response.) Question 25: What information should a public body be asked to provide or publish to demonstrate that consideration has been given to the impact on equality of key services and policies? Public authorities should have to show what they have taken evidence into account, that they have involved stakeholders and that their actions will lead to improvements. They should also have to state their arrangements for monitoring progress. Question 26: Should public authorities be required to take action in response to issues identified through impact assessment? Yes. Unless responses are made to issues that arise there would seem Sense Scotland Page 11 of 18 15 January 2010
  12. 12. Equality Bill: Public Sector Duty Specific Duties 29 September 2009 Response from Sense Scotland 15 January 2010 little point in identifying the issues. We are aware that Scottish Government is interested in examples of good practice on equality impact assessment. Before providing a specific example we would like to draw attention to an approach to sharing good practice that appears to work well. The Centre for Excellence and Outcomes in Children and Young People’s Services ( ) was set up to help those working all children and young people. The site draws on both academic research and effective practice, in the form of a one-stop-shop. The C4EO model would we think translate well to equalities work in relation to local authorities, Community Health Partnerships and others, providing an evidence base for what works and offering hands-on support for practical solutions. Clearly the Public Service Specific Duties are about more than just outcomes – encompassing process and autonomy (the most vulnerable) too. However, the model offered merits further examination. As we mentioned, a C4EO equivalent for equalities does not itself address the interests of service users directly. What it would do is to point to what works in terms of service user involvement, outcomes, process and autonomy. Elsewhere in our response we emphasised that Scottish Government needs to ensure that any Public Sector Specific Duties – whether on involvement, reporting, procurement impact assessment or other duty – go beyond one public body writing reports to another. We therefore include as an Appendix to this response an example of good practice that we think is worth examining. A simple customer service approach would result in an improved performance and service user experience. Involvement and consultation Question 27: Do you think public authorities should have a specific duty, when setting their equality objectives, to take reasonable steps to involve and consult employees, service users and other relevant groups – or where appropriate their representatives – who have an interest in how the authority carries out its functions? Yes It is important to highlight a possible distinction between consultation and involvement – at least in the way the terms are often applied in current practice. Whether the general term Sense Scotland Page 12 of 18 15 January 2010
  13. 13. Equality Bill: Public Sector Duty Specific Duties 29 September 2009 Response from Sense Scotland 15 January 2010 ‘consultation’ or ‘involvement’ is used is less important than how the term is applied. Evidence shows that good practice emerges when people’s views are actively sought, are taken account of and information is then fed back to them on how their views were taken account of. An excellent example of effective consultation and involvement to draw on comes from the equalities review process itself, conducted by EHRC and Office for Disability Issues. As important as consultation or involvement is – whichever term is used so long as it is precise – it is equally important that public bodies report on their activities and act on what they found. Otherwise, any exercise on involvement can be tokenistic. If that happens there would be a risk that people would be unwilling to repeat their involvement. One simple measure could be used to show that involvement and consultation has been, real, effective and not tokenistic. For some reason it rarely features in process-driven reporting. That measure is to ask people about their feelings of involvement and consultation – not at the time the consultation is carried out but when measures are proposed. Have they felt their views were listened to, acted on, or ignored? Procurement Question 28: Do you think that imposing specific equality duties on contracting authorities in relation to their public procurement activities are needed, or are the best way to help deliver equality objectives? Do you think such an approach should be pursued at this time? Yes. Specific equality duties are needed. Public authorities should look at awarding contracts to businesses that reflect the values society holds. With an annual spend of £8 billion public sector procurement is a potentially powerful driver of equality. One step would be for public authorities not to engage contractors who treat their staff poorly. It is important that procurement is not issue is beyond simply reporting- dignity and rights of service providers and service users. Equality & human rights needs to be involved in the tendering process, the contracts and in service delivery. Question 29: Do you think that contracting authorities should be required to state how they will ensure equality factors are considered as part of their procurement activities to help contribute to the delivery of those objectives? Yes. Sense Scotland Page 13 of 18 15 January 2010
  14. 14. Equality Bill: Public Sector Duty Specific Duties 29 September 2009 Response from Sense Scotland 15 January 2010 There is a trend towards lowest cost being equated with best value. This can have an adverse impact on the lives of vulnerable people. Equality and human rights should be given due weighting in the tendering process and awarding of contracts. Question 30: Do you think that contracting authorities should be required to consider using proportionate equality-related award criteria where they relate to the subject matter AND performance of the contract? Yes. Equality criteria should apply at all stages of the contract. We would prefer that the phrase “to consider” is deleted, thereby strengthening the specific duty on procurement. Question 31: What would be the impact of a regulatory proposal aimed at dealing with suppliers who have breached discrimination law? What might be the benefits, costs and risks? The intended impact would be that suppliers also address equality issues. We are however less convinced that regulatory measures would have the desired impact. The appropriate response is to address equality through procurement. If the public sector has £8 billion annual spend then suppliers will respond positively to procurement requirements on equality which will need to be clear, specific and measurable. Leadership by Scottish Ministers Question 32: What do you consider to be the role of Scottish Ministers in providing leadership on equality? Ministers should take a lead role in setting an example of meeting the public sector duty. Scottish Ministers and Scottish Government as a whole already have equality duties on disability and gender and it would seem reasonable to extend into other equality areas. Question 33: Do you think Scottish Ministers should set equality priorities for Scotland, determined jointly with local government in the spirit of the Concordat, and report on these? Scottish Ministers should set priorities though we do not support them being set jointly with local government. The consultation document has taken a narrow view of ‘public authorities’ and given that many bodies exist outwith local government it would be inappropriate to set priorities within the Concordat relationship alone. Sense Scotland Page 14 of 18 15 January 2010
  15. 15. Equality Bill: Public Sector Duty Specific Duties 29 September 2009 Response from Sense Scotland 15 January 2010 Question 34: Do you think Scottish Ministers’ equality priorities should be based on evidence and informed by reasonable and proportionate involvement of stakeholders and equality interests? Yes. Scottish Ministers should take a lead both in seeking and using evidence on which to set priorities for action and in its stakeholder involvement. Question 35: Should Scottish Ministers set their equality priorities at the end of the year in which the Government is elected and report on these within the electoral cycle? Yes. Documentation Question 36: What documentation do you think should be required of public authorities to publicise their equality objectives? We recommend simple, clear, straightforward objectives that are presented in as many different formats as possible. These should state what people should expect of services and how equality objectives will improve their lives. They should note routes for involvement. Question 37: Do you think that the mechanism(s) – whether through a scheme or otherwise - for public authorities to publicise their equality objectives and report on progress should be left to each individual authority? Yes as long as the mechanisms meet underlying principles, are transparent, are clear in how they involved people the public bodies should be given flexibility on how they publish objectives and report on progress. Some may choose to use separate reports others to publish within such as annual reports. Many public bodies produce regular news updates for users of services. Equality objectives and progress reports could be brief and target specific areas with invitations for feedback to be given. Statements of the form: • what you told us • what we will do • how this will affect you • what we did (referring to previous commitments) – will touch people’s lives and allow service users to see change as well as feel part of that process. Sense Scotland Page 15 of 18 15 January 2010
  16. 16. Equality Bill: Public Sector Duty Specific Duties 29 September 2009 Response from Sense Scotland 15 January 2010 Enforcement and scrutiny Question 38: What role should bodies with a scrutiny and improvement function in Scotland play in monitoring and improving the extent to which Scottish public authorities advance and promote equality, foster good relations between different communities and groups, and take steps to prevent unlawful discrimination? It will not be for scrutiny bodies to decide on public sector duty compliance as that will be the province of EHRC. There are also significant changes under way on how scrutiny operates. Any new arrangements need to work in a coordinated way with the new equality duties. The last thing public authorities need is for different bodies to be exercising scrutiny functions in broadly similar areas with different, and potentially competing priorities. A clear focus on user participation should reflect the new equality duties. Question 39: Should that role be set out in specific duties placed on bodies with a scrutiny and improvement function? If so, which bodies? What would you see as the costs and benefits of such an approach? Are there any risks associated? Yes, the role should be set out. The bodies which should be covered are: • Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland • Healthcare Improvement Scotland • Mental Welfare Commission • Audit Commission If we were to choose how resources were to be deployed we would rather see them go on capacity building in public authorities to improve equality than being spent on scrutiny bodies. Dr. Stuart Aitken Senior Consultant Sense Scotland 43 Middlesex Street Glasgow G41 1EE 0141 429 0294 Sense Scotland Page 16 of 18 15 January 2010
  17. 17. Equality Bill: Public Sector Duty Specific Duties 29 September 2009 Response from Sense Scotland 15 January 2010 Appendix Good practice on engaging with equality groups Public authorities need to introduce mechanisms that reflect the following principles: • Involve all service users and are accessible to them – can be adapted. • Are not restricted to key policies but address system wide concerns. • Can distinguish failure demand from increased activity – a public authority might have more contacts with people because they do not deal with concerns, leading to more contacts. • Are simple and straightforward to administer across services. • Can be used to: provide feedback directly to service users; inform internal policies including equality actions proposed; be used for monitoring purposes; lead to annual improvements. The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 Code of Practice on Support for Learning provides a useful model for ‘customer satisfaction’ that is not restricted to education. A 5 point rating scale is used: 1 = Very unhappy with service 4 = Happy with service 2 = Unhappy with service 5 = Very happy with service 3 = Not bothered either way 1 2 3 4 5 Information was: Clear, understandable and avoided jargon Provided in a way that suited me (e.g. print I can read) Provided to me at no charge and without a fuss. Communication: If I needed an interpreter one was available easily Someone kept me up-to-date with what was being done I was told what was happening between meetings When I provided information it was acknowledged I wasn’t referred to formal legal procedures. Contacts I had: Contact was sensitive, positive, helpful and regular I felt included and was encouraged to contribute to discussions People used clear language I could understand Processes and roles were explained from the beginning I was kept informed about what to expect and the next steps Times of meetings took account of when I was available. Sense Scotland Page 17 of 18 15 January 2010
  18. 18. Equality Bill: Public Sector Duty Specific Duties 29 September 2009 Response from Sense Scotland 15 January 2010 Meetings work best for me when: I’m asked what times and places suit me best, and arrangements take account of my responsibilities to my family Notes from previous meetings, and any papers to be considered, are sent to me in good time I’m invited to add points to the agenda, at the same time as everyone else Others attending know their roles and the roles of others There are no hidden issues, no last minute surprises Decisions are made when I’m at the meeting, or agreed with me before the meeting takes place, not after the meeting has closed, unless I’m then asked for my view I’m given time to raise concerns, so decisions are not rushed. Identifying ways forward works best for me when: All views are taken on board – including mine and my family’s People are interested in learning from me and hearing what I have to say People take on board my family priorities Services I’m to use are identified with me and they are responsive to my needs. Accountability and involvement: Roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and understood If I have any concerns these are responded to quickly Any decisions made are open to my scrutiny I have a clear point of contact who can answer questions, make decisions and ensure that agreed actions are taken People do what they agreed within the timescale committed to – if a decision is likely to take time, I’m given some idea of when a decision is likely. Sense Scotland Page 18 of 18 15 January 2010